Snippet Saturday- Vitamin D

If you’re stuck inside during most of the sunshine hours, take vitamin D!  I take it year round and it definitely helps perk me up when I can’t get that sunshine I crave. For an even bigger boost, get one of those full-spectrum sun lamps. Mine lives on my desk at work and is totally wizard.

My job doesn’t make me happy

Nope. My job does not fill me with joy, I do not feel inspiration welling from every pore, and my job is not my “dream come true.”

But I love my job. I really truly love my job.

This is my view every single day, and goshdarnit I like it.
This is my view every single day, and goshdarnit I like it.

“But Olivia,” you might ask, “how can you love your job if it doesn’t make you happy?” And to answer that, I’m going to tell you why I can’t identify with Elite Daily or Buzzfeed or Thought Catalog anymore.

There are countless articles on those sites telling young people to pursue their dreams and not to settle for the mindless drudgery that an office job would surely offer. Millennials (of which I’m one) praise each other for sticking it to the man and making their own paths. And all of that does sound great! More power to you for holding out for what you really want!

Maybe it’s my practical streak, but that just doesn’t work for me. Traveling with no money and crashing on friends couches doesn’t sound adventurous and fun to me- it isn’t the lifestyle I want. I enjoy having a steady paycheck, a comfortable apartment, and decent hotels to stay in when I travel. Maybe I’m just an old soul.

Earning that steady paycheck means putting in my time from 8am-5pm (with a lovely hour long lunch break) and doing things that aren’t on the top of my fun-list: running statistical analysis, cleaning data, writing code, formatting Excel sheets.

So no, my job does not fill me with ecstasy every time I contemplate the work that I do. But there are so many reasons I love my job despite that:

  • The people I work with totally rock. My team, my department, and pretty much everyone in this company is smart, kind, interesting, and sometimes totally dorky. Just my kind of people.
  • My boss is the best boss I could ask for. He encourages me to create my own assignments and pursue whatever project on the docket that I have the most interest in, and he’s always pushing me to take on harder tasks. He’s my biggest cheerleader and he makes sure I know it.
  • I get to leave at 5pm. There are the occasional days where I have to stay a little late, but when I leave at the end of the day, I’m done. My evenings and weekends are entirely free for me to spend the money I earn from 8-5 Monday-Friday.
  • My company takes care of me. I never realized how much a good insurance plan would matter to me at 23, but it really does. And having more vacation time than most people at my level doesn’t hurt either.
  • My company takes care of the community. The CEO has a big emphasis on giving back to the community that has given so much to us, so there are constant volunteer opportunities put together at work. Food drives, toy drives, environmental clean up crews, making food for hungry children, you name it and we’re probably involved in some way.
  • I feel like I’m learning. I had no intention of coding when I left school (I hated all my CompSci classes with a fiery passion), but now I’m determined to become the team expert in anything that might require coding. Having that goal and feeling like I’m learning and improving ensures that I’m never bored.

Working at a company that fits my values like this has proven to be much more valuable than working somewhere simply because the work itself is enjoyable. I’ve found that it’s not so much about the work you do, it’s about who you do it with and the attitude you approach it with.

It was never my childhood dream to become a research analyst and do statistics and coding all day long, but it’s meant that I get to earn a living that supports my lifestyle, and gives me the free time to pursue the hobbies that I love. I don’t want a happy job, I want a happy life.

My job does not make me happy in itself, but it gives me the freedom to create a whole life that makes me happy.

I’d much rather work at this company in corporate America and enjoy my life than scramble to make ends meet while chasing some dream Buzzfeed told me I wanted.

Check out my follow-up to this here.

Hand-Gallop to the Finish

There’s no place like WEF. There’s no place like WEF. There’s no place like WEF.

Did it work?

Nope, still freezing our butts off here in VA. Addy must’ve thought I was extra cuddly because I was desperately trying to share her body heat. Turns out that trotting around while trying to hug your horse’s neck is “poor equitation” and you need to “actually sit up in your saddle.” Buzzkills.

Anyways, it was another fantastic lesson. I know I say this every time, but we genuinely have a blast every time. Even when things don’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped, I always walk away feeling like we accomplished something and had fun. Hooray for fun pony!

We warmed up with pretty standard flatwork- there were four horses in the ring which required a little bit of power steering, but everyone was advanced enough that we avoided any collisions. A little two-point, a little no-stirrup work, and some practice with transitions within gaits (something we really need to work on).

One exercise that was a little different was a canter serpentine: three loops with simple changes in the middle of each loop to stay on the correct lead the entire time. This was great to get the horses supple and listening to cues for change of bend. Of course Addy, being her usual snowplow self, figured that we were cantering, we should stay cantering, counter-canter was just fine with her, simple changes are for losers. Those downwards transitions are always what get us. After a few tries she finally listened to my desperate half-halts and begrudgingly agreed to do her simple changes.

And then jumping! Are you guys ready for another sick diagram? Hope you are, ’cause you’re totally getting one.

I'm a very visual learner, these diagrams seem helpful. Imma keep doin' them.
Amanda over at The Poor Amateur’s Almanac is using awesome diagrams too, so there must be something to this.

So professional. What we had was a long approach to an outside vertical, then woah-ing to trot in the crossrail and out the bending line in a forward three, stay left over the coop, hard left over the pink vertical, then circle around to roll back over the yellow planks.

While this looks like a pretty simple course, it had a couple changes of pace that made it tricky. The long approach to the vertical made it easy to build up steam, but then the short end comes up quickly along with the trot jump. Lots of leg upon landing to make the forward three, then balancing through the turns to the coop and the pink vertical. Then the horse thinks they’re done, so leg on and balance through the roll back to the yellow plank which comes up very quickly off that turn.

This course was so much fun because despite a couple of tight turns, it really invited a big open stride. I mentioned last week that we both feel more comfortable with a bigger stride, and that was definitely the case over this course. Distances came up better, I felt more balanced, and I was better able to stay with her motion even when we got a bit long. It’s definitely a pattern from last week- my automatic release was so much easier when we’re carrying that pace.

While she’s willing to collect and get more bouncy when I ask, big open strides are definitely Addy’s happy place. She feels more responsive when we’ve got a bit of speed going and I can feel her being super careful over the jumps. I know that we’re going to need to practice collecting to get more comfortable with those shorter strides, but this was a nice change of pace (pun absolutely intended).

We talked about the possibility of doing a jumper class in the spring (which is one of my New Year’s Resolutions, so booyah!) and confirmed that once that first show is under our belt we can move up to 3′. Trainer assigned our homework for the week: take our work on transitions to the next level. Shorten stride, lengthen stride, hand-gallop to halt, collected canter to extended trot, anything that will pose a challenge and get her attention, with a hard focus on getting our canter stride more adjustable. Addy and I may be very happy with a big stride, but there will inevitably be a turn or a test that requires a little more finesse.

Also some fantastic news- Owner Lady is out of town all next week, so Addy is all mine for a solid 9 days! Manfriend sure will be (not) surprised when I’m there 6 days out of 7. I’m not that much of a cruel taskmistress, she does get at least one day off.

There you have it- we got to gallop around and jump big, and the two of us once again had the most fun of anyone in the ring.

Not to mention she's the cutest creature on the planet!
Not to mention she’s the cutest creature on the planet!

Any tips for working on adjustability within the canter? How about our downwards transitions? What helps reinforce your half-halt?

Wordless Wednesday- Starlight Express

My first horse Star, a 16.2 Holsteiner gelding that took me from short stirrup to 2’6″ and was the best moose in the world. (circa 2005)


You’re letting us do what?!

Trainer and I had a talk about the best way for me to enter the show ring on Miss Addy, and I’ll admit that I was very surprised by the way the conversation went.

It started out very basic- we agreed that a smaller VHSA show nearby would be a better idea than a 3 day A show in Pennsylvania. Small and local were the keywords. We’ll find whatever 2’6″ adult classes that are offered, and see how we do.

"Get the jumps higher than 2'6" and then we can talk about me picking up my feet." -Addy
“Get the jumps higher than 2’6″ and then we can talk about me picking up my feet.” -Addy

That’s when it got interesting.

I jokingly said that I couldn’t wait to do the 3′ Adult Medals, and instead of laughing at me and telling me to slow my roll, trainer just looked at me and said we can absolutely do that.

Hold up… You’re telling me that I can move up? Even though I haven’t shown in 10 years? Have you thought this through? Have I thought this through? Party!

So while the plan is still to stick with 2’6″ for the first show and take it from there, I’ve already got my eye on those equitation medals. As long as we continue to do well in our lessons and that first show goes well, I can’t think of a good reason not to go for it!

Any tips for moving up to 3′ at the shows? When/why did you move up in height?

Kindness isn’t earned.

As you may or may not know, I’m a rabid denizen of Pinterest (check out my boards here!) and one of my favorite things to do is pin encouraging quotes. I look at them for pick-me-ups on down days, and I look for new ones when I’m feeling good. Like this one!

But one theme I’ve noticed in a lot of popular quotes is the idea that kindness or respect has to be earned by the other person; that after a certain point you can stop being nice. After all, if they’re “fake” or mean to you, shouldn’t you return the favor?

This bugs me. Like, a ton.

Since when does someone have to earn kindness? Why do they need to prove themselves to you in order to experience your good attitude?

I’m not saying that everyone should smile all the time and be super sweet to everyone no matter what and never respond to insults or slurs. But I think everyone would be happier if we simply gave the other person the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe that friend started ignoring your calls because her brother is sick and she’s focused on helping him get better. Or maybe her mobile plan is running out of minutes. Or she’s super swamped at work. Or any one of a thousand reasons that are not “she hates you and is disrespecting you.”

On the flip side, maybe she’s ignoring your calls because she doesn’t want to hang out with you. And that sucks! But just because they’re dropping you as a buddy doesn’t mean you have to get nasty. There’s no need for that.

Just like your mood should not dictate your manners, the actions of others shouldn’t dictate your own actions. As a wise man has told me (*ahem* Dad), you cannot control what happens, you can only control your reaction. Wouldn’t it be better if that reaction was one of love and understanding?

In short, being kind is not something that anyone else can choose for you. It is something that you choose, regardless of their actions.

What do you do when it’s tough to be kind?

Tack Wishlist

Sometimes when things are slow at work I daydream about what I would buy if I won the lottery. And of course most of the list is horse gear. So without further ado, my list of what I would get if my bank account magically expanded:

  • A Tad Coffin saddle. I don’t own a saddle at this point and this is my biggest wish. I used to ride in my trainers Tad Coffin in high school and it was sooooo comfortable. A slightly-used already-broken-in version sounds perfect. A girl can dream. (Psst this one please)
  • An Ogilvy half pad. Man, I’ve been seeing these all over Instagram and I have major saddle pad envy. With a monogrammed cover? Why yes that would be fine.
  • Shaped fleece pad. One of those big cushy ones that’s gonna look awesome in the hunter ring.
  • Leather fleecy leg boots. I’m drooling over these ones, they’re just so sporty and classic and pretty. Seriously. Drool.
  • Spurs. Why do I want these? I have no idea. I have some vague idea that it might help force me to control my leg movement better. Addy certainly has no need of spurs, her go-button is plenty sensitive without them.
  • Polo shirts to look sharp in when I lesson. Wait, what? Polo shirts are pennies compared to the other things on this list! But I have plenty of nicely-fitted t-shirts, and this overly practical girl just can’t justify the expense. For now, polo shirts stay on the Want list, not the Need list.

There you have it! Not a super long list, but definitely something to inspire me to pack those lunches and save those dollars!

What’re you saving up for this year?

Snippet Saturday- Brakes

For the love of all that is holy, get your car brakes checked regularly. Once a year minimum, but twice a year if you commute in a lot of stop-and-go traffic. Paying for brake checks is a heck of a lot less expensive than having to replace everything around your brakes. Trust me. Do it.

How I Budget in One Easy Step

One reaction I’ve gotten alarmingly often when I mention that I ride horses is, “Oh so you must be rich, right?”

Yeah, I wish. I’m comfortable enough, but that’s only because of careful budgeting. Let’s face it, I’m an early-twenties research analyst living in a place with an absurd cost of living.

I was a little hesitant to write this post, because let’s face it- budgets are boring. But some of my favorite blog posts out there have talked about budgets and financials, so I’m jumping in and joining the conversation anyways. Honestly, for me it all boils down to one question:

What do I have to give up to pay for this?

When I get that delicious Chipotle for lunch, that could be a drink at the bar with my friends. When I crank the heat up instead of putting a sweater on, that could be a new show shirt. You get the idea.

That’s how I keep my spending in check day-to-day, but I also try to prioritize my spending. I know that certain things are necessary and certain things are wants, and I try to keep those in balance as best I can. For example, riding breeches are needs. Twelve pairs of riding breeches are wants.

And that’s my super simple way of making sure my budget works for me each month: on a high level I make sure I’m paying for my highest priorities before spending on things that aren’t as important, and on a smaller level I justify each purchase with myself by asking what else I could be spending that money on.

If there was interest I was thinking about doing a series on more specific ways that I make my budget work for me as a professional twenty-something, let me know in the comments if you’d like to see that!

What’s your favorite trick to keep spending in check?

Turning on a Dime

Do you remember how last week we were working on that single quarter line? Well, this week was about as different as you can get.

Flatwork was pretty basic, really just to get the motors running. Addy had the day before off and no outdoor play time earlier that day (stupid snow), so we had no brakes. She wasn’t taking off or being fresh, she just reeeeeally really didn’t want to slow down. And despite my newfound courage, this was making me a little nervous about jumping. I figured if she was this heavy and fast on the flat, it would only get worse over fences.

Of course like the perfect girl that she is (I will never admit to her having any faults), as soon as she realized we were jumping she settled right down. I’m convinced she just loves her job and wants to show off a bit.

But now to the exciting part: the course Trainer set for us was the 2008 Maclay Medal 2nd round (see the original here). In a tiny indoor. She made a good point though- if I could make the turns in here, I could make them anywhere. Not even jumper classes will put in turns so tight. Here’s my oh-so-professional-made-in-Powerpoint diagram:

Could there BE more jumps in here??
Could there BE more jumps in here??

Yeah. I know. INSANE! But let’s walk through it. Fence 1 was a simple trot vertical with a hairpin turn to another small vertical, tight right turn to a forward bending four strides, quarter line in a forward three strides, diagonal oxer rollback to fences 8a and 8b in one stride, skinny brick wall with no standards with a tight turn to the center crossrail, rollback off the rail to a stone wall with no standards, and a galloping seven strides to the final vertical. Phew! I have to catch my breath just thinking about it.

I honestly thought this would be the day I fell off. Not because I thought Addy would misbehave, but because I figured I’d probably go flying off the side around one of those tight turns. But it actually went surprisingly well!

Trotting into the first jump set us up at a nice collected canter for the turn to that next vertical, which in turn set us up for an easy right turn to the bending line. We had to leg hard to get the four since we didn’t have a lot of momentum built up, but we re-balanced down the short end before re-legging up for the forward three. Collecting again for the diagonal oxer set us up for the tight turn to the in-and-out, but the striding was really comfortable for that pace. We got nice and slow and bouncy for the skinny brick knowing that Addy would likely over-jump it (it’s her least favorite jump), and we had a hard right over the middle. Landing on our left lead set us up for that rollback to the stone wall, and then we galloped on out of there.

I was very pleasantly surprised at our ability to navigate that course. For such a bulky big horse, Addy is super willing to make tight turns if I balance her correctly, and she’s so honest- the only times she’ll refuse are if I’m making her job too hard for her to do properly.

Things that went really well:

  • The forward lines. We’re always being told to “woah” down the lines, so getting to stretch open and use her big stride felt great. I felt like I was able to move with her more naturally and see my distances better when we carried that pace.
  • The in-and-out rode super nice out of that corner. It was a big stride but kept us in control for the next turn.
  • The skinny brick. It’s not that Addy dislikes it persay, she’s just never quite sure if it really counts as a jump if there’s no standards. But apparently she’s learning to love it, ’cause we only overjumped it a little and she never hesitated at it.
  • The final vertical. I loved that thing. The galloping seven was perfect there, and I could feel her jumping it so cute. For whatever reason, I felt really connected and put together over that jump every time.

Things that didn’t go as well:

  • The track from the skinny brick to the middle crossrail. I needed to add in another half-halt there to make that smoother. We made it over both jumps, but that’s about the best you can say about it.
  • The rollback over the standard-less stone wall. That was the worst! I’d keep my right leg on to encourage her around the tight corner, then forget to put my left leg back on to straighten her out. You can guess what happened- we sailed right by the left side. It took so many tries to get that right.

This was hugely different from what we worked on last week, and it was so much fun! I even got to practice my automatic release a bit, and it was a lot easier when we were carrying that pace. And the awesome advice I got in the comments last week definitely helped! None of the jumps were much higher than 2’9″, but it was a blast getting back to my equitation roots. Now that I know Addy can absolutely keep up with the tight turns it’s just making me more eager to move up to the adult medals with her.

What do you think of that course? Any tips for handling those tight turns more smoothly?